Lower body strength

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Men are often stronger in the upper body, and proportionately weaker in the lower body, like an upside-down pyramid.
Women are the opposite, with most of the strength residing in the hips, buttocks and legs: a regular pyramid.

Tai chi

The internal martial arts encourage all students to focus on the use of the lower body. It gives a strong foundation of strength.
Leg muscles and buttock muscles are enormously strong compared to the arms and shoulders.

Internal strength

Students need to avoid using the upper body for strength, and cultivate movement that comes from their lower half. Ideally, the arms and shoulders should do very little.

Leg strength

A student cannot reasonably hope for success when they use their upper body for strength against a 'pumped-up' opponent.
Biology is against you. You need to think about your lower body, in particular your legs.
When you measure the size of leg muscles relative to arms, you find that the leg muscles are significantly larger and can produce vastly more power.
Connect your arms to your back, and use your legs to drive your movements.


Monkeys, horses and other mammals have arms and legs of the same length. Humans are different. We are bipeds.
Our legs are much longer and stronger than our arms.


Trying to compensate for our natural physiognomy by adding muscular bulk to the upper body is foolish. It affects balance and encourages wrong body use.
Many body builders have huge arms and tiny legs... This is upside down.

Lower body

Ensure that the legs are responsible for power. Imagine that you are pulling or pushing using your waist and legs as a starting point.
Moving your centre will cause the torso to move.
The centre of gravity is in the intestines because they contain the largest volume of water in the body. When the lower body leads the action, everything else follows.


Remember, when moving, there is no place that does not move. When still, there is no place that is not still.

(Wu Yu-hsiang)


Unite upper & lower

In tai chi we generate power from the ground, add the strength of the torso and emit via the hands. This requires whole-body coordination.


Many people try to pump up their shoulders in order to gain a strong, manly-looking physique. Why bother?
We must work on our buttocks and legs, not our arms and shoulders. No matter how large your arms are, they will never be as strong as your legs.


Instead of relaxing the lower back and allowing the pelvis to remain neutral, many people shorten the lower back.
The spine loses its natural curvature and becomes weaker; more vulnerable to injury.
They are typically unaware of this habit because it is 'familiar' and seems 'normal' to them. Unfortunately, this habit prevents people from fully utilising their lower body.


Releasing the lower back is easy. Just relax it by thinking to let-go and lengthen. However, you need to monitor it repeatedly throughout the day until it becomes an established habit.

Page created 18 March 2008
Last updated 16 June 2023